Red River College to train students, health workers how to swab for COVID-19

There soon could be more people trained to swab noses at Manitoba COVID-19 testing sites.

The Manitoba government is partnering with Red River College to train students and other health-care workers to perform nasal swabs in an effort to increase the capacity at COVID-19 testing sites around the province.

“Our government is expanding our COVID-19 testing capacity to reduce wait times to get a test,” Premier Brian Pallister said in a news release.

The free five-hour course will enable students to work at a COVID-19 testing site. Graduates receive a “micro-credential,” a transferrable certification showing that they have mastered a particular skill or set of skills.

Students who are in at least the second year of training to work in a regulated health profession, such as registered nursing, licensed practical nursing and psychiatric nursing, and medical students at the University of Manitoba are eligible.

Anyone certified to practice in any of these fields outside of Manitoba is also eligible.

The course is also open to students in an approved paramedicine or respiratory therapy program, health-care aides, medical laboratory technologists, occupational therapists and pharmacists.

The program will initially train up to 30 students per week, increasing capacity as needed.

“We will continue to offer this until we know that we’ve met the critical need for people who are expert in COVID swabbing,” said RaeAnn Thibeault, executive director, academic, at the college.

The initial focus will be on staffing COVID-19 sites in Winnipeg, where demand for tests has led to hours-long wait times at testing sites. Once demand in the city has been met, the province will begin focusing on training people to work at sites in the rest of Manitoba, Thibeault said.

Students can register online now, and the first intake starts Monday. The course is broken up into two parts — an online theoretical portion that takes approximately three hours to complete, followed by a hands-on applied learning portion that takes about two hours. 

Students will complete the online portion at home, then sign up for one of the labs on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, Thibeault said.

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